Casting Announced for NYC Premiere of MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN

By: Sep. 12, 2019
Casting Announced for NYC Premiere of MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN

Two love stories. Two suicides. Padua Playwrights presents theNYC premiere of Mayakovsky and Stalin, written and directed by legendary poet/playwrightMurray Mednick (Theatre Genesis) opening at theCherry Lane Theatre for a four-week run beginningOct. 17.

Mednick's newest work is a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos to explore two distantly connected relationships: that of Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his married lover and "muse," Lilya Brik, and of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his wife Nadya.

According to Mednick, "The play traces the parallel stories of these two couples. Lilya was a B actress who convinced Stalin, after Mayakovsky's suicide, to restore Mayakovsky to the canon of accepted Soviet poets. Nadya committed suicide during a state dinner, renouncing both her husband and his policies. It's about the repercussions of power, about the push and pull between secularism and religion."

Daniel Dorr and Maury Sterling (best known as "Max" on Showtime's Homeland) head the cast in the two title roles. Laura Liguori plays Lilya, Mayakovsky's married, Jewish lover and muse, while Lili's husband, Osip - a Jewish scholar, literary critic, film director and publisher who encouraged his wife's affair while remaining the poet's most trusted adviser - is played by Andy Hirsch. Nadya, Stalin's disillusioned, mentally unstable second wife, is portrayed by Jennifer Cannon. Also in the cast are Alexis Boozer Sterling as Lili's sister and Mayakovsky's former lover, Elsa; Michelle Azar as the maid, Masha; and Max Faugnoin the role of the "chorus."

Like all of Mednick's work, Mayakovsky and Stalin is driven by poetic impulse rather than by linear story-telling.

In his review of the Los Angeles production, Anthony Byrnes of NPR affiliate station KCRW said, "With a Mednick play, you feel like you're being invited into the playwright's mind... It's like one of those dreams you have when you're grappling with a big question: not always clear but terribly vivid... let go and let Mednick's words wash over you."

The creative team for Mayakovsky and Stalin includes scenic and projections designer Hana Kim, lighting designer Pablo Santiago, costume designer Shon Le Blanc, composer and sound designer John Zalewski, graphic designer George McWilliams and casting directorRaul Clayton Staggs. The stage manager is Danny Crisp, and Racquel Lehrman,Theatre Planners produces for Padua Playwrights.

A trailblazer of the off- and off-off-Broadway movements in the '60s and '70s when he was playwright-in-residence for Theater Genesis, Mr. Mednick wrote such ground-breaking works as The Hawk, The Hunter, Sand, Are You Lookin' and The Deer Kill (1970 Obie award for Outstanding Play). He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he was the founder/artistic director of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival from 1978 to 1995. His work was last seen in New York when his autobiographical Joe and Betty opened at the José Quintero Theatre on West 42nd Street, then moved a couple of blocks east for an extended run at the Kirk. In his New York Times review, Bruce Weber called it "harrowing, deeply distressing and memorable... you have to admire the brazenness of all the artistic decisions and, from the playwright on down through the cast, the uncompromised upholding of them. Mr. Mednick is the recipient of two Rockefeller Foundation grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play citation (for Joe and Betty), a Career Achievement Award from the LA Weekly, an Ovation award for Lifetime Achievement, a Local Hero Award from Back Stage West, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theater.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (July 19, 1893 - April 14, 1930) was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist and actor who was a revolutionary force in 20th century Russian literature. His early poems established him as one of the more original poets to come out of the Russian Futurist movement, rejecting traditional poetry in favor of formal experimentation. Mayakovsky produced a large and diverse body of work during the course of his career: he wrote poems, wrote and directed plays, appeared in films, edited the art journal LEF, and created agitprop posters in support of the Communist Party during the Russian Civil War. Though Mayakovsky's work regularly demonstrated ideological and patriotic support for the ideology of the Communist Party and a strong admiration of Vladimir Lenin, Mayakovsky's relationship with the Soviet state was complex and often tumultuous. He often found himself engaged in confrontation with the increasing involvement of the Soviet State in cultural censorship and the development of the State doctrine of Socialist realism. Works that contained criticism or satire of aspects of the Soviet system, such as the poem "Talking With the Taxman About Poetry" (1926), and the plays The Bedbug (1929) andThe Bathhouse (1929), were met with scorn by the Soviet state and literary establishment. In 1930, Mayakovsky committed suicide. Even after death, his relationship with the Soviet state remained unsteady. Though Mayakovsky had previously been harshly criticized by Soviet governmental bodies like the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, Joseph Stalin posthumously declared Mayakovsky "the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch."

Lilya Yuryevna Brik (Nov. 11, 1891 - Aug. 4, 1978) was a Russian actress, writer and socialite connected to many leading figures in the Russian avant-garde between 1914 and 1930. She was known as the beloved (muse) of Vladimir Mayakovsky. She was married for a long time to the poet, editor and literary critic Osip Brik (1888-1945), and she was the older sister of the French-Russian writer Elsa Triolet (1896-1970). Pablo Neruda called Lilya "muse of the Russian avant-garde." Her name was frequently abbreviated by her contemporaries as "Л.Ю." or "Л.Ю.?'." which are the first letters of the Russian word «любовь» lyubov, or "love." There were attempts to present her as a greedy and manipulative femme fatale, but those who knew her noted her altruism and intelligence. She helped many aspiring talents and was acquainted with many leading figures of Russian and international culture, such as Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, Boris Pasternak, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Kazimir Malevich, Sergei Paradjanov, Maya Plisetskaya, Rodion Shchedrin, Andrei Voznesensky, Yves St. Laurent and Pablo Picasso. It was Lilya who, in the mid-1930s, famously addressed Stalin with a personal letter that prompted Stalin's posthumous declaration declaring Myakovsky "the best and most talented" and changed the way the poet's legacy has been treated since in the USSR.

Joseph Stalin (Dec. 18, 1878 - March 5, 1953) was the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1929 to 1953. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was transformed from a peasant society into an industrial and military superpower. However, he ruled by terror, and millions of his own citizens died during his brutal reign. Born into poverty, Stalin became involved in revolutionary politics, as well as criminal activities, as a young man. After Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, Stalin outmaneuvered his rivals for control of the party. Once in power, he collectivized farming and had potential enemies executed or sent to forced labor camps. Stalin aligned with the United States and Britain in World War II (1939-1945) but afterward engaged in an increasingly tense relationship with the West known as the Cold War (1946-1991). After his death, the Soviets initiated a de-Stalinization process.

Nadezhda ("Nadya") Alliluyeva Stalin (Sept. 22, 1901 - Nov. 9, 1932) was the youngest child of Russian revolutionary Sergei Alliluyev, a railway worker who sheltered Stalin after one of his escapes from Siberian exile during 1911. When staying in St Petersburg (later Petrograd), Stalin often lodged with the Alliluyev family. The couple married in 1919, when Nadya was 18 and Stalin was already a 40-year-old widower. Nadya found life in the Kremlin suffocating. Her husband, whom she once saw as the archetypal Soviet "new man," turned out to be a quarrelsome bore, often drunk and flirtatious with his colleague's wives. According to her close friend, Polina Zhemchuzhina, the marriage was strained, and the two argued frequently. On Nov. 9, 1932, after a public spat with Stalin at a party dinner, enraged at the government's collectivization policies on the peasantry, Nadezhda shot herself in her bedroom. The official announcement was that she died from appendicitis.

There will be one public preview of Mayakovsky and Stalin on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., with press previews set for Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19, both at 7 p.m. The opening performance will be on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. Performances continue throughNov. 10 on the same schedule: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (dark Thursday, Oct. 31). Tickets are $46 (regular seating) and $66(premium seating).

The Cherry Lane Theatre is located at 38 Commerce St., New York, NY 10014. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 866-811-4111or go to

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